Katelyn Gough was finally ready to check another box on her list of accomplishments when she enrolled in Longwood University’s Master of Business Administration – General Business track online program in the fall of 2017.
“I am a CPA, and I currently have a federal audit job in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “I always wanted to earn my MBA.”
After earning a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting at Longwood, Gough pursued CPA certification before returning to her alma mater for her MBA, which she completed in August 2019.
“I heard great things about the program,” she said. “I was also familiar with many of the professors.”
While Longwood wasn’t the only program Gough originally considered, the option to stay local and attend classes entirely online made it the clear choice.
“There was one other program I was looking into in Richmond, Virginia,” she said. “You were expected to have in-person classes at least two nights a week after work. I chose Longwood because it was so much more convenient.
“I was able to work when I wanted to instead of having to go to a traditional classroom,” she said. “I did the online program part time, so it was also manageable with my work schedule.”
Real Life Work
Working on an MBA often requires students to learn by doing. Gough found that this way of learning made a huge impact on the way she did her own job.
“In our final capstone course, we had to find a local business, do a business report based on their current market and show how they could work to expand and do better,” she said. “The company that we used was called Soda Blast. For my own career, it was helpful for me to focus on the financial aspects, making sure I understood the changes year over year and why the numbers were moving the way they had.”
Taking a deep dive into the numbers of a small business showed Gough what to look for in any organization, including her own.
“I am now able to recognize trends,” she said. “I can look into what things stand out as trends, what things seem to be oddities and understand the reason for those.”
Gough may have been familiar with some of her professors before entering the MBA program, but taking their graduate-level classes allowed her to form tighter bonds with them.
“The professors were always very personable, and you had real connections with them,” she said. “They were all willing to help you out in the real world, serving as a reference for you and helping you career-wise in the search. Numerous professors have served as references when I was applying for jobs and scholarships.”
Gough also says grad school is a great place to network with like-minded individuals, even online.
“I still talk to a few of my classmates from time to time,” she said. “Of course, I also follow them on LinkedIn and see what they’re up to. If you wanted to build those relationships, you definitely could.”
Bringing It All Together
When Gough started the MBA program, she was still studying for her CPA exam and working a full-time job.
“It was challenging,” she said. “You got to learn many different areas. It is a general business degree, so you have to focus on all the different concentrations: accounting, finance, and marketing.”
Gough depended on a tight schedule, devoting 15 to 20 hours a week to keep up with her coursework.
“My main strategy was doing assignments that were due on a certain day or required work with the other students as early as possible in the week,” she said. “For any individual assignments that I did on my own, I usually saved those for the weekend and tried to knock them all out on a Saturday.”
Gough’s family and friends were excited to see her back in school, having urged her to pursue an MBA long before.
“My mom and dad and my sister were all very supportive and also understanding in all of my busy-ness trying to manage school, work and CPA,” she said. “They got me through those two years. They were all there for my graduation as well.”
While Gough is not currently on the job market, she says that MBA graduates like herself can look forward to having a leg up in any job search.
“In today’s world, it seems that everyone has an undergrad degree and not very many people have a master’s,” she said. “If you want to stand out and have that extra box checked on your resume, it’s definitely worth it.”
Having made it through an accelerated online MBA program, Gough believes she can achieve any goal she sets for herself.
“Knowing that I’ve accomplished it gives me the confidence to move forward and go on to the next step – maybe a doctoral degree,” she said. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about. I know that it is a possibility and that I could do it.”